Curtis Whatley is a past member of the 50CAN team. 

Here’s what educators, advocates, wonks  and policymakers are talking about today:

News & analysis

26 states plus DC apply for NCLB waivers in second round
Twenty six more states, plus the District of Columbia, are applying for waivers under the No Child Left Behind Act, which would free them from many of the core tenets of the law in exchange for adopting key reforms backed by the Obama administration. Already, 11 states have won this new flexibility. Those applying are: Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin, along with D.C. States seeking flexibility in the second round will be notified later this spring. The U.S. Department of Education expects additional states to request flexibility by Sept. 6 for the third round of review. (Politics K-12)

New York: Why it’s no surprise high- and low-rated teachers are all around
The New York Times’ first big story on the Teacher Data Reports released last week contained what sounded like great news: After years of studies suggesting that the strongest teachers were clustered at the most affluent schools, top-rated teachers now seemed as likely to work on the Upper East Side as in the South Bronx. Teachers with high scores on the city’s rating system could be found “in the poorest corners of the Bronx, like Tremont and Soundview, and in middle-class neighborhoods,” “in wealthy swaths of Manhattan, but also in immigrant enclaves,” and “in similar proportions in successful and struggling schools,” the Times reported. Education analyst Michael Petrilli called the findings “jaw-dropping news” that “upends everything we thought we knew about teacher quality.” Except it’s not really news at all. Value-added measurements like the ones used to generate the city’s Teacher Data Reports are designed precisely to control for differences in neighborhood, student makeup, and students’ past performance. The adjustments mean that teachers are effectively ranked relative to other teachers of similar students. Teachers who teach similar students, then, are guaranteed to have a full range of scores, from high to low. And, unsurprisingly, teachers in the same school or neighborhood often teach similar students. (Gotham Schools)

Pennsylvania: Corbett’s education spending hike covers pensions, not books
It was meant to quiet Gov. Tom Corbett’s critics who claimed his budget proposal would eviscerate public education: an interactive website touting how he is bestowing the “largest amount of funding to public schools in state history.” But the state Department of Education’s new website, http://www.investinginpastudents.com, shows the vast majority of Corbett’s $338.1 million, or 3.7 percent, increase in education spending would not go toward classroom learning as his administration claims. It would go to cover the state’s mandatory increase in its share of public school employees’ retirement payments, which originated in the Legislature’s 2001 decision to increase pensions for its members and all state employees. (Morning Call)

Minnesota: $323M surplus forecast for state budget, but …
An improving economy is giving Minnesota a $323 million budgetary cushion, but that money will immediately fly out the door to refill reserves and pay down debts to public schools, state officials announced Wednesday. The economic forecast released Wednesday had other good signs: Minnesota’s unemployment rate is dropping and at a rate faster than the national average. Revenues are flat, but the state’s spending is in line with what it is taking in. Fully two-thirds of the budget improvement stems from lower-than-expected costs in health care and slightly lower school enrollment. The smallish surplus allows the state to fully replenish its budget reserves and make a $318 million down payment on the $2.4 billion it owes schools. (Star Tribune)

Maryland: Good report cards for Chevy Chase Public Schools
The public schools attended by Chevy Chase kids received high marks from MarylandCAN, an organization that acts as a “platform for Maryland citizens to effectively speak up for kids,” according to the organization’s website. In terms of overall student performance, Chevy Chase elementary schools perform very well. While the “average percentage of students meeting or exceeding state proficiency standards across all subjects” is 85 percent in Maryland and 89 percent in Montgomery County, 93 percent of Chevy Chase Elementary School students meet or exceed the standards, according to data published on MarylandCAN’s website. But, the picture isn’t all perfect. At Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, the average percentage of low-income, African-American and Hispanic students meeting or exceeding state proficiency standards in all subjects is only 76 percent, compared to 78 percent statewide and 80 percent across the school district, according to data published on MarylandCan’s website. (Chevy Chase Patch)

Viewpoints

Alexander Russo: Remember the normal, everyday teachers
One of the most powerful moments for me in the soon-to-be-released feature film “Detached” (select theaters 3/16, available on demand now) is the opening, which features black and white images of real veteran New York City teachers talking about how and why they became teachers or decided to stay in the profession … It’s a vivid reminder that teachers are just normal people, not all of whom “always knew” they wanted to teach, and who decided to join the profession for a variety of different reasons.  Which is fine.  Let’s not forget that making schools better at scale is going to have to involve reaching “regular old” teachers like them.  Not all the TFAers, value-added scores, charters, or or school turnarounds you can imagine will get us there without engaging and supporting the profession in a much broader way. (Alexander Russo)

Laura Klein: High school matches that end in just “o.k.”
My students know they will be finding out this week which high school they will attend, and yet so many of them forget where they applied. When I ask what schools they listed, or why, they usually tell me the top school on their list and then allow their voice to trail off. It’s not that they are an unusually forgetful bunch. It’s that they made their choices without a lot of thought or commitment. They didn’t go to countless open houses or pore over the thick high school directory. They have also been told that many of the better schools are unlikely to accept them. I hope my students will feel happy about the schools that they get into — whether it’s their top choice or not. Each year many of my kids don’t get matched to schools, and have to reapply in the second round. That process begins this weekend. And so each year many students get matched and put their heads on their desks and cry, disappointed with the results. They will apply for a transfer, claiming that it is too far from their home, or too dangerous. Most of the time, their appeal will be denied, and they will go to the high school they were matched with. Some, of course, will be delighted, having gotten the school that they had hoped for, and they will show off their letter triumphantly. Usually, it turns out O.K. They come back to visit the next year looking more mature, seeming more or less happy with where they are. They are resilient kids, and they adjust to the circumstances that they are dealt, whether or not the circumstances are optimal. (School Book)

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